Review by Byrne Harrison
Photo by Larry Cobra
"I really care about these characters. I hope you really care about them too." - Derek Ahonen
The thing that strikes me, several days after having seen The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, is that I do still care about the characters that Derek Ahonen has created and that The Amoralists have brought to life at P.S. 122. This small tribe of outsiders - Wyatt (Mathew Pilieci), full of bluster and simmering anger, but crippled by a fear of death; Dear (Sarah Lemp), the pro bono attorney turned vegan entrepreneur and mother-figure; Billy (James Kautz), the drug-addicted editor of a revolutionary newspaper, who is too scared to join the revolution when it happens; and Dawn (Mandy Nicole Moore), the fragile runaway - live together in a spacious apartment on the Lower East Side, above their vegan restaurant (the titular Pied Piper). Free love, anti-establishment prose, and meatless meals abound. It is, at least to Wyatt, Billy, Dear and Dawn, utopia.
Their peace is jeopardized when Billy finds out his younger brother, Evan (Nick Lawson), is coming for a visit. All frat boy bravado and condescension, it seems that his arrival, and Dawn's subsequent interest in him, will be what threatens to tear this unusual family apart. But that is just one of Ahonen's red herrings. The real threat comes with a visit from Donovan, their landlord and benefactor (played with a smarmy intensity by Charles Meola). He arrives bearing gifts . . . never a good sign.
The acting in The Pied Pipers is outstanding, though Kautz has a tendency to go into a Shanter-as-Kirk cadence when his character gets serious. This can be forgiven in that, even at its choppiest, Kautz is fully committed to his role, and unlike Shatner, he never appears to be "acting"; he is simply being Billy. The same is true of the rest of the actors. Despite the nearly three-hour run time, there is rarely a false note, and the time flies by. These actors clearly know their characters so well that you will likely forget that you are watching actors on a stage; at times, it feels more like being a guest in their living room.
Set designer Alfred Schatz does an amazing job of creating a home for this unusual foursome. His design features so many little details - graffiti, posters, masks - the flotsam and jetsam of four unusual lives, all of which give subtle depth to the characters and create a truly lived-in home.
Ahonen's excellent ear for dialogue, his realistic script, and the phenomenal work on the part of the actors make this a production not to be missed.
The play features nudity . . . very shocking, but wildly amusing nudity, so no one under 17 will be admitted.
The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side has once again been extended (through Sunday, August 23rd). Perhaps it will be again, but just in case, you should see as soon as you can.
The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side
Written by Derek Ahonen
Directed by Derek Ahonen
Produced by Meghan Ritchie
The Pipers Crew Spiritual Advisor: Larry Cobra
Stage Manager: Judy Merrick
Assistant Director: Matthew Fraley
Lighting Designer: Jeremy Pape
Sound Engineer: Bart Lucas
Set Designer: Alfred Schatz
Costume Designer: Ricky Lang
Featuring: Mathew Pilieci (Wyatt), James Kautz (Billy), Mandy Nicole Moore (Dawn), Sarah Lemp (Dear), Nick Lawson (Evan), Charles Meola (Donovan)
150 1st Avenue (at East 9th Street)
Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday at 7:30 PM
Sunday at 5:30 PM
Extended through August 23rd